Winter Reads by Nicola Penfold

Hello everybody! Today, to start us off on the penultimate day of blogmas, we have the wonderful Nicola Penfold sharing her favourite winter stories. Onto the post!

I’m delighted to be on Amy’s amazing Christmas blog and to have the most wonderful of topics: winter books. As Amy knows, I’m a seasonal reader. In the heat of summer, I search out heatwave books like iced water.

And now December is upon us, I’m craving books about cold weather, ice and snow, the countdown to Christmas, and that quiet, still, magic part of the year that’s deep winter, which I always revel – and languish – in, till I see one too many daffodils and am ready to cast winter off and turn to spring.

This list is by no means exhaustive, it’s one I add to each year, but I love all of them. Please @ me with your suggestions for more winter reads! Especially those set in wild places!

For younger children

In our house, we have a box of books I get out of the loft every year at the same time as the Christmas decorations. It’s got classics such as The Night Before Christmas and various versions of The Nutcracker. Here are a few more of our favourites!

The Christmas Eve Ghost written and illustrated by Shirley Hughes

Bronwen and Dylan live with their mum in a terraced house in 1930s Liverpool. The family met hard times after their Da was killed in a mining accident, and their mum makes her living taking in other, richer people’s laundry. Next door, a Catholic family with two grown up sons, are given a wide berth; they are ‘not their kind’. When the children are left alone on Christmas Eve however, and hear strange noises in the kitchen, it’s Mrs O’Riley next door who comes to the rescue. With classically beautiful Hughes illustrations!

The Empty Stocking by Richard Curtis, illustrated by Rebecca Cobb

Clever, funny, heart-warming and really lovely message about what it means to be good. It wouldn’t be Christmas in our house without this book!

Last Stop on the Reindeer Express by Maudie Powell-Tuck illustrated by Karl James Mountford

A little girl misses her dad, who’s working far away at the North Pole. When she posts a card to him at the local Christmas Market, she’s whisked away on a magical adventure. Beautiful words and pictures both – this is a real gem.

Have Fun Anna Hibiscus by Atinuke, illustrated by Lauren Tobia, for 6+

I love the early reader / first chapter books by Atinuke, but especially this one. Anna Hibiscus flies from her family home in Africa to Canada, to see her mum’s mother, Granny Canada. This captures the joy and excitement of seeing snow for the first time and celebrating Christmas in a cold country, but also is filled with longing for home and the family traditions Anna knows best.

For junior school and up

The Snow Spider by Jenny Nimmo

This is one from my childhood that I love just as much today. A slim, beautiful, emotive read, set deep in the Welsh mountains, as winter approaches. Gwyn’s family is damaged by the disappearance of his big sister, Bethan, four years before. It’s about family, remote communities, landscape, ancient magic and a tiny silver spider called Arianwen. It makes me cry!

Snow Foal by Susanna Bailey

Eleven-year-old Addie is separated from her mum and placed in foster care, on a remote Exmoor farm in deep winter. She’s angry and hurting, but things are made slightly better by her friendship with an injured foal she finds out on the moor, and the raw wild winter landscape. Heartrending and beautifully written.

The Time of Green Magic by Hilary McKay

This book finishes at Christmas time, so is perfect for the Christmas build up. The warmth, chaos and emotions of a busy blended family, with one parent working overseas, and the others adjusting to their new ivy-covered home. It’s quiet and funny. It’s an escape into a timeless, magical world. It’s also bang up to date. I adore it!

For older readers

Where the World Ends by Geraldine McCaughrean

Definitely wintry rather than Christmassy. In 1727, a group of boys and men are left ashore a remote sea stac off St Kilda, to harvest birds to take back to the mainland for food. But as autumn comes, and winter in its wake, no one comes to collect them. This goes to some dark places, but for extreme awe-inspiring landscape and connection with the natural world, plus amazing characters to boot, I think it’s stunning.

The Wolf Road by Richard Lambert

Again, not joyful Christmas reading, but read to embrace winter and the solace of wild things and places. Lucas’s parents have been killed in a car accident, and he goes to stay with his nan in a remote Lake District location. Coming of age in the wilderness. It’s beautiful.

For adults

Dark Matter, a Ghost Story by Michelle Paver

This is one of the inspirations for my latest book, Beyond the Frozen Horizon. It’s set in remote Svalbard in 1937 as winter arrives. One by one, Jack’s expedition companions are forced to leave, and he’s alone in the darkness of the polar night. The most terrifying book I ever read! But what is winter without ghost stories?!

The True Deceiver by Tove Jansson

I never really read the Moomins as a child, but as an adult I’ve really enjoyed discovering Jansson’s novels and short stories. In the summertime (obviously!) I love The Summer Book. This time of year, you should read The True Deceiver, set in a Finnish hamlet around the home of an elderly artist, who’s visited by a younger woman whose motives are unclear. Ali Smith said it “glitters with the kind of sharpness that might just cut you”. That’s the kind of quote that makes me pick up a book!

Thank you so much for reading! Have you read Nicola’s wonderful books? What winter reads do you love? Let’s chat in the comments!

Speak very soon,

Amy xxx


Author: goldenbooksgirl

Disabled book blogger who also writes TV, film, music and other posts from time to time | UKYABA Champion Teen 2018 | Email: | she/her

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